Racial Disparity and Arrests: Did California’s Recent Criminal Justice Reforms Affect Jail Bookings?

Magnus Lofstrom , Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC)
Brandon Martin, Public Policy Institute of california
Steven Raphael, University of California, Berkeley

With tensions between law enforcement and minority communities continuing to make headlines, racial disparities in the criminal justice system are of great concern. Research shows remarkable differences across race and ethnicity in criminal justice experiences (e.g. sentencing, and being under correctional control). Differences are especially stark in comparisons between African-Americans and whites. It is likely that these inequalities are significantly affected by the very first step in the criminal justice process—arrests. In this paper, we examine racial disparity in bookings (arrests that results in finger printing and a booking into a local jail). Our analysis focuses on whether California’s large scale criminal justice reforms in California (realignment in 2011 and Proposition 47 in 2014) affected racial disparity in arrests. The large-scale reforms—primarily motivated by federally court-ordered mandates to reduce the state prison population—represent natural policy experiments generating plausible exogenous variation in arrests.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 143. Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Incarceration